Sunday, April 24, 2005

What The Hungry Were Fed Up With

by Keith Brenton

It was a time of sadness; of grieving. Jesus had just lost a cousin. His followers had just lost a friend. Israel had lost a prophet, and not just any prophet, but one who had come in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Herod had executed John the Baptist, the outspoken herald of Christ and critic to Herod's marriage to his brother Philip's wife, Herodias. He had done so at the request of his wife's daughter - possibly his niece - to whom he had made a rash promise after being aroused by her dancing for him and his cronies. Herodias had planted the suggestion with her daughter, and so John's head was served up on a platter to her, and she gave it to her mother.

It had not been that long before that John, from prison, sent some of his remaining followers to ask Jesus if He was the One who had been promised - maybe wondering if he had been wrong, or why Jesus hadn't miraculously released him from prison. He had received back the witnesses of Jesus' many supernatural acts of kindness to those in need. It was a hard answer. It didn't seem to mean that he was a captive who would be freed in the way one would hope.

When they heard of John's execution, Jesus and his friends retreated from their preaching tour by boat to a deserted place near Bethsaida, on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee; they had been so busy that they had not taken time to eat. They were tired and hungry. But the crowds to whom He spoke and ministered would not let them have their peace; their time of grieving. They followed. And, true to His nature, He healed many of their sick. Instead of returning home to prepare and celebrate the Passover, they came to Him again in the evening.

He saw them coming, and asked Philip the same question that the rest of his friends had been discussing among themselves: "Where are we going to buy food to feed all these people?" It was a test, you see; Jesus had already decided what He was going to do.

Philip answered as best he could: "Why, eight months' pay wouldn't buy enough food for each one to have just a taste!"

They must have discussed it among themselves before somebody said, "Lord, this is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

"Do you really want us to go into town and buy that much?" they asked, exasperated.

"What do you have available?" Jesus asked them. "Go look and ask."

Peter's brother Andrew thought he was up to the test. He brought someone to Jesus, just as he had brought his brother; just as he and Philip would bring two curious Greeks to Jesus; just as he doubtless would again - many, many times. This time, Andrew brought a little boy. "Here's a boy with five little barley loaves and a couple of small fish ... but how far will they go among so many people?"

"Bring them to me," Jesus said, "... and then have the people sit down in groups of about fifty."

They set to it, doing the census, estimating about five thousand men plus women and children sitting in the grass.

Jesus took the loaves and fish they brought Him, looked up into heaven, and thanked God for them, and broke them in pieces to hand to his friends for them to distribute.

He kept breaking, and handing. And in the breaking and handing and distributing, something extraordinary happened. Everyone ate. They ate their fill. They had leftovers ... twelve baskets full of them.

Then something ordinary happened. The people who had witnessed the impossible and eaten the result began to talk about it. Maybe some remembered God's promise to have them lie down like sheep and feed them in Ezekiel 34:13-15 (just as King David's Psalm had said); and that His Shepherd would be bowed down to by kings, in scriptures like Isaiah 49:7-9.

They were fed up with their king Herod. He was an adulterer and a murderer and a puppet of their captors, the Romans. So they recognized Jesus for who He is, and began to say among themselves, "This must be the Prophet who is to come into the world."

Jesus knew the ordinary role they had in mind for him, and would try to force Him to accept: to be another in a line of earthly kings, feeding them when they were hungry and healing them when they were sick and looking after all their earthly needs. He would have none of it. (Though it wouldn't keep Him from feeding another four thousand some time later; four thousand who had followed Him for three days.) In the pleasant stupor of the huge meal and the buzz of gossip and scripture and fulfillment and treason, he slipped away up the mountain.

What they wanted would have to wait until another Passover.

It wasn't the first time - and wouldn't be the last time - he would slip away from those who wanted to use force against His purpose.

Because His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts.

And sometimes, when we want what we want right now, that's really hard to swallow.

- from the accounts in Matthew 14:13-20, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15


Blogger David U said...

Keith, thanks for that wonderful post! It is just really hard to have a bad post when the subject is Jesus, huh? :) I can't wait to meet Him.

Your brother,

4/24/2005 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger For Christ's love compels us.. said...

Thanks for doing what you're doing in this blog. Your offerings are often very encouraging and refreshing. Don't stop!

4/30/2005 04:10:00 AM  

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